As soon as we left the
middle path running along past the front of the old house we came onto a
better road. It wasn't paved but grading had made it passable. When we got
to the town of Foraker I took a loop around the few remaining houses in
order to point out the places my folks had owned so many years ago.
“Why did you live in all
those houses?” My friend asked.
“I don't know. Mother
used to say we played “musical houses.” I couldn't explain why we had to
have so many houses. Though part of it was tied up with my grandmother,
Bellzona. At first she lived on a place away from town a bit. She became
weaker and couldn't tend a garden, fruit trees, chickens and that. They
bought her a three-story house in town.”
“She and Grampa Joe
lived there for some time and it was a beautiful place with her care.
Climbing stairs became difficult for her as she aged. This is when they
bought the last house and that is where she died.”
“Our residence was
close enough for Dad and Mother to check in on her. It was a town house for
us and that was all. We really stayed most of the time at the Strike Axe, a
ranch adjoining my Uncle's spread. This is where the cattle were and they
needed daily care. Sometimes, the roads were so bad Mother had to stay with
us in town so we could go to school.”
Only a few weeks ago we
had stood around the grave of the young mother, my grand niece by marriage,
who had been killed in a head on car crash. I drove up onto the meadow where
the cemetery was located. The grave was still quite visible. Tire tracks and
ruts were all along both sides of the road where people had sunk into the
ground because of the wet ground at the time of the funeral. My daughter and
I had gone out earlier. We parked the car at a right angle to the road and
facing it. The people who came followed our example which kept all the
whole grounds from being cut up with tire tracks. This orderly lining up of
the cars, side by side, so that all the numbers of people had a place to
park did give some relief from what could have been a disorderly, too large
There must have been a
feeling of sadness about my personality because no where I looked was
pleasant. Always before when I scooted over the roads there was always a
joyful sight for me. Once two eagles lifted from a snag of a dead tree.
Another time sweet, young calves gambled. Tumbling streams falling over the
prairie after a rain created full tanks with reflective blue water. Today
though, everywhere I looked was cold and barren with nothing but dead,
dried up grass.
“Did they have a fire
over here?” My friend motioned to the right side of the road.
“No. This is what they
call a controlled burn. It is what the Tallgrass prairie people do. It is
just one more thing my brother was unhappy for them to practice.”
“Why not?” She wanted
“The eggs of prairie
chicken are on the ground. When they burn it kills the eggs and the birds. I
don't know what other species it destroys but some, I'm sure.
“Well, why do they do
it, then?” This was the obvious next question.
“It is to kill weeds
and to allow the Tallgrass to grow without being choked with unwanted
varieties of what they consider worthless plants. Anyway this is their
reasoning. I'm sure my brother knows what he is talking about though
because I've read that the Prairie Chickens are endangered.”
The buffalo ranging
here and there didn't even look good to me. They seemed to be scrawny and
lank looking. “Maybe it is just my general bad attitude I have over my
brother's illness and the always worsening condition of the old home place,”
I thought to myself while driving the winding road out over the prairie to
where the bunk house and gift shop was located.